Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Consumption, A Deadly Killer

My Patterson great great grandparents, had a family of ten, not an uncommon feat in that day.  The sad part of this family is that five of the children, all contracted consumption, as tuberculosis was known in those days.  All five eventually succumbed to the dreaded disease.

My mother talked about this sad situation a couple of times, and of course her info would have been family lore passed down through the generations.  Apparently the family all traveled to a religious conference a distance from their home.  I gather a trip at that time would have either been on foot, or by horse and buggy.  Whatever the means of travel, they apparently all came home with major respiratory conditions.  Whether they all contracted the tuberculosis bug at that time is not sure.  Perhaps the flu bug they caught, left them in a weakened state, and thus succeptable to TB. 

Tuberculosis was not a quick killer.  Patients often lingered on for a year or two after initial symptoms.  The five children all died within a period of six years.  It is entirely likely that one may have caught if from another, as they tried to care for the sicker ones.  What is particularly sad is that all the victims were either late teens or early twenties.  This seemed to be a common age for consumption to strike.

The consumptive patient
The victims were: 
James, born in 1851, died Sept 11, 1876
Samuel, born in 1854, died July 21, 1876
Daniel, born 1857, died March 31, 1878
Mary, born 1861, died May 20, 1879
William, born April 1862, died June 03, 1882

Imagine the grief the parents must have endured as they buried their children, one by one.  The father, James, died the fall that the last child succumbed to TB, on November 30, 1882.  The mother, Jane, who obviously nursed her children through their illnesses, lived until 1911, in fact, buried two more of her offspring prior to her death.  Only three of her ten children outlived her.

All of these six early deaths are buried in the Elora Cemetery in Southern Ontario.  I have visited the graveyard and seen the tall stone that commemorates the lives of each of these folks, all struck down before their time by the tiny tuberculin bacillus.

The following websites are ones that discuss consumption from a medical standpoint and in a historical context:
And that is about all I have to say for today.

Musings and meanderings from the Musical Gardener.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Much appreciated comments from my friends: